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Penguin Great Ideas : Why I Write [Paperback]

George Orwell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Sep 2004 Penguin Great Ideas

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves - and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives - and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization, and helped make us who we are.

Whether puncturing the lies of politicians, wittily dissecting the English character or telling unpalatable truths about war, Orwell's timeless, uncompromising essays are more relevant, entertaining and essential than ever in today's era of spin.

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Penguin Great Ideas : Why I Write + Books v. Cigarettes (Penguin Great Ideas) + Decline of the English Murder (Penguin Great Ideas)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Rev Ed edition (2 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014101900X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141019000
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 0.7 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George Orwell is one of England's most famous writers and social commentators. Among his works are the classic political satire Animal Farm and the dystopian nightmare vision Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell was also a prolific essayist, and it is for these works that he was perhaps best known during his lifetime. They include Why I Write and Politics and the English Language. His writing is at once insightful, poignant and entertaining, and continues to be read widely all over the world.

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933. In 1936 he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there.

At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.

It was around this time that Orwell's unique political allegory Animal Farm (1945) was published. The novel is recognised as a classic of modern political satire and is simultaneously an engaging story and convincing allegory. It was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which finally brought him world-wide fame. Nineteen Eighty-Four's ominous depiction of a repressive, totalitarian regime shocked contemporary readers, but ensures that the book remains perhaps the preeminent dystopian novel of modern literature.

Orwell's fiercely moral writing has consistently struck a chord with each passing generation. The intense honesty and insight of his essays and non-fiction made Orwell one of the foremost social commentators of his age. Added to this, his ability to construct elaborately imaginative fictional worlds, which he imbued with this acute sense of morality, has undoubtedly assured his contemporary and future relevance.

George Orwell died in London in January 1950.

Product Description

About the Author

GEORGE ORWELL (born Eric Arthur Blair) was born in India in 1903, but moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 entered Eton, where he began writing. He worked widely in journalism but fame came in 1945 with the publication of ANIMAL FARM.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thankyou for writing what You wrote. 19 Oct 2010
By Vickie
I bought this collection of essays to widen my knowledge of Orwell's intent behind his novels, and what I found was an assortment of concise works which give a unique twang to several political arguments. The initial essay delved into the difference between Fascism and Socialism, of which Orwell fervently believes, should be made aware to everyone. The context of these essays, written mid world war two are still undeniably relevant to the modern reader, despite the fact the threat of Fascism is no longer a major concern. `On Hanging' is a reflection of Orwell's time in Burma, witnessing a man take his last steps- and it provokes the argument at why we end a life of someone who is functioning perfectly, who has the concern of stepping round puddles on the way to the noose. The final essay is a quirky little number, displaying the decline of the English Language. Orwell delves into how many political phrases are simply meaningless metaphors, how foreign anecdotes illustrate ambiguity, and how embellished statements cover up the true, direct meaning of language. Read this petite bright idea, it gives the reader such an insight to why the man wrote what he wrote.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The very natural wish for revenge after the war is considered against the reality of how most people just felt relief that it was over. Orwell did not write about the reparations demanded from Germany and the effect of the partition of Berlin (or if he did it is not recorded here), which is something of a disappointment. He wrote about the "Atom Bomb" as it was called back then, and this essay is illuminating only on the notion of what are "good" weapons (those of the medieval age, that anyone could use) and "bad" weapons - tanks and the bomb which are expensive as well as conducive to control by cold war.

Orwell's writing about literature, when not in a political vein, is instructive. He loves the stories of Jack London and mourns their popularity, while admitting they are extremely variable in tone. The problem with these stories is their extreme cruelty - indeed London's Iron Heel predicts the rise of fascism. His greatest works have the theme of the cruelty of nature.

In his essay on The Prevention of Literature Orwell is most exercised by the distortion and suppression caused by Communists and `fellow-travellers'. "There can be no question," he says, "About the poisonous effect of the Russian mythos on English intellectual life. The kind of distortion he has in mind take in situations such as that which found "...very large numbers of Soviet Russians - mostly, no doubt, from non-political motives - had changed sides and were fighting for the Germans. Also a small but not negligible proportion of the Russian prisoners and Displaced Persons refused to go back to the USSR, and some of them were repatriated against their will.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With hindsight Orwell was ahead of all the rest. 10 Nov 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reading Orwell's essay today is a real eye opener. If you overlay the known outcomes and political scenarios onto the book Orwell was bang on the money. A fascinating document of its day; no less readable today. I may be biased as my favourite book in Burmese Days but he does write extraordinarily well . I never tire of his precise insightful observations.
The description of a hanging in Burma, a shorter piece within the book, shows Orwell's innate humanity. A modest cover price seals the deal, buy this book - you won't be disappointed.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very English idealism 13 Mar 2008
By M. Harrison TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
You don't have to be a socialist to enjoy this little collection of Orwell essays. You just have to enjoy simple but bitingly precise use of the English language, and hold a forlorn affection for the English themselves. 'England is.. a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and the silly,' says Orwell. And then adds, 'But in any calculation about it one has got to take into account its emotional unity..'

It is Orwell's combination of a sentimental attachment to the ordinary Englishman who doesn't hesitate in the face of Fascism, and a withering dismissal of English anti-intellectualism, that makes this book so beguiling. It feels remarkably contemporary as he observes 'England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality.' And touchingly prescient as he predicts in 1940 that 'in whatever shape England emerges from the war..the gentleness, hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies.'

Towards the end he gets a little bogged down in his manifesto for change - and his belief in nationalisation now seems quaint. But the book returns to form at the end with a coruscating attack on the misuse of English.

Poor a slightly warm beer, look out over some interlocking hills, and enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This short book contains four essays dealing with Orwell's reasons for writing, his analysis of England in a time of war, a hanging and the ways people block out the horror of such an event, and the interrelationship between politics and the English language.

On the subject of his reasons for writing, Orwell provided four reasons why any writer might write, apart from the need to earn a crust. These four points were, sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose. The last point acted as a good primer for the subjects of the other three essays.

His analysis of England, "The Lion and the Unicorn", attempted to define the essence of the English. This work was written after the British retreat from Dunkirk and before the D-Day landings. Orwell's essay describes people's expectation that there would be at least another three years of war, and he is very supportive of patriotism to England while at the same time promoting the improvement of the position of the common man.

"A Hanging" is a brief account of a hanging in India and it leaves little to the imagination.

"Politics and the English Language" deals with the way politicians, businesses and newspapers use the English language to say a lot while stating absolutely nothing. He proscribes six rules for the writing of plain English with the objective of actually communicating a message to the biggest number of people. These are:

i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably on of the most important text by the great man
It is obvious that patriotic socialism is the most answer appropriate answer to neocon global Zionism. And Orwell grasped it all in the 1940's...
Published 29 days ago by Mr. Gilad Atzmon
5.0 out of 5 stars Master of plain language
Great to have this slim edition of a real book to carry around for bus journeys, waiting in the supermarket queue, being bored at train stations. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lulubeth
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell and forever
I am a die hard Orwell fan (see my other Orwell reviews) so honestly - it might be hard to get an objective opinion from my review with regards to this text, as with all his books,... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Phoober
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect
These essays by George Orwell remind you just how excellent he is.

The first one, "Why I Write," is a must read. Read more
Published 10 months ago by M Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I Write
The book is smaller than I imagined it would be. The content is excellent. This a book to keep and refer to, often.
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. Audrey Reimann
4.0 out of 5 stars George Orwell complex self-examination of his motives and politics
A very engaging book which captured the authors trademark economy with words married to a profound self-awareness. An excellent book
Published 14 months ago by David Lawrence O Driscoll
2.0 out of 5 stars From small acorns...
It's a lot of money for very few pages of teenage bunkum; the govt will decide what will be produced, middle-class will be abolished; fight the millionaires etc The tedium... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Sid Boggle
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking collection of essays
I love George Orwell. He gives it to you straight. Here are a few quotes from this fine little collection of his essays, several of which I have read and enjoyed many times... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Simon Bendle
5.0 out of 5 stars A quirky, quaint and wonderful little read
Though vastly outdated by modern standards, "Why I Write" is still somehow relevant politically. Not only is it still relevant, but provides a fascinating insight into the mindset... Read more
Published on 28 Jun 2010 by Greg Aitken
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